By Dave Sewell
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Airstrikes have killed hundreds of Syrians

This article is over 7 years, 9 months old
Issue 2514
A US F-22 Raptor jet
A US F-22 Raptor jet (Pic: US Air Force/Flickr)

Western bombs killed hundreds of Syrian civilians last week—and looming major offensives could see many more deaths.

French airstrikes pounded the village of Toukhan Al-Kubra near the border with Turkey.

The Syrian regime demanded a United Nations (UN) investigation and said more than 140 had been killed.

French president Francois Hollande had vowed days earlier to step up bombing in Iraq and Syria after the massacre in Nice in France.

Yet the Nice killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had no known link to either country—and French bombs have already killed many more than he did.

It followed deadly US airstrikes on the town of Manbij. Estimates of the death toll range from 50 to 160. Several groups said they identified 73 bodies with many others “charred or reduced to shreds”.

The United Nations agency Unicef said dozens of children were among those killed. “No matter where they are in Syria or under whose control they live—absolutely nothing justifies attacks on children,” it said in a statement.

US Colonel Christopher Garver tried to put the blame on Isis “using more civilians as human shields”.

But Manbij is a major population centre where US officials know any bombing will cause immense “collateral damage”.

Many of the families pulverised by the bombs were refugees fleeing Isis.


Airstrikes by the US-led coalition of Western and Arab states are getting deadlier, according to data collected by the AirWars campaign group.

The number of coalition airstrikes went down 15 percent in the six months to May, but the number of civilians killed went up by over a third.

This only looks set to intensify as assaults on major Isis strongholds loom. Isis’s power base is in the cities it occupies, and any military operation against it must go through them.

Manbij, a strategic hub on the route to Isis “capital” Raqqa, is in the crosshairs now.

Fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces gave Isis 48 hours to evacuate on Thursday of last week.

The bigger prize is Mosul in Iraq. Western forces are massing for a huge assault, expected in the autumn. Different Iraqi factions are vying to join them and get a share of the spoils.

US special envoy Brett McGurk said last week that taking Mosul was now “in sight and an achievable goal”.

It’s easy to dismiss the Syrian regime’s complaints about air strikes as rank hypocrisy. It is currently shelling and starving the besieged population of the city of Aleppo.

But the West’s bombs won’t bring peace to the region either. They will only bring more death—and more of the chaos and bitterness that fuelled the rise of Isis.

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